Don’t Be Afraid to Buy the Ugly Produce

Growing up, we didn’t always have food in the house. My mother didn’t know how to spend money wisely, and due to that things like the bills and food got forgotten. When we got on SNAP, things changed, but before then, it was often a struggle. At times, we had the bare minimum of bread, milk, and eggs. There were days where I had to really think to myself: “How am I going to feed the kids today?” I would always feed them first. Always. Often that meant that I didn’t get dinner. Thankfully, I had free breakfast and lunch at school. I didn’t always get to school in time for breakfast, but at least there was lunch. I’d scour in the couch cushions for change so I could get a snack or two for between classes. If I didn’t have change, then my friends would buy me snacks. When I went over to their house, they always stuffed me with food, and sometimes even gave me leftovers. A few of them even brought groceries for the house. My stepdad, Brian, often got us groceries as well.

In high school, I had this bad habit of forgetting to eat. I wouldn’t notice that I was hungry because I’d gotten used to that hunger. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve broken that habit. Now when my stomach growls, I drop what I am doing and I eat. Even if it’s just a snack. My habit of snacking as continued through my adulthood. At work everyone calls me a ‘snacker.’ I am always snacking. Whether that means on ranch Doritos or M&Ms. Even when I have actual food like a rice bowl, I always have a snack for later. If one was to check my bank account, the thing I spend the most on is food. I have a feeling even when I am 90 years old, I will still be a snacker.

Food is one of those things that everyone sees differently. Personally, I love food. My dream is to one day travel around the world and try all the food from everywhere. I’ll even try chocolate-covered crickets. Once at least.

However, I have a terrible diet. I live off Mountain Dew, Doritos, and M&Ms. Most of the time the only actual meal I have is dinner. My New Year’s resolution this year was to have at least 2 meals a day. So far, I’m doing okay on this resolution, but I could be doing better. Some people have three meals a day. Some people are vegans. Some people have a heavy protein diet. Everyone is different. The one thing that we all are guilty of though is. . . wasting food.

I try to not waste food. Growing up the way I did, every little breadcrumb counted. Even if I don’t like what’s for dinner, I’ll still eat it (most of the time at least). I try not to waste, but I’m guilty as well.

Food waste is a serious problem that grows and grows. A few months ago while we were in the produce section at Walmart. I noticed an employee going around to the fruit, picking out a few then putting them in this rather large cardboard box. He was picking out the fruit that was bruised. Still edible, but because it was bruised, it couldn’t be on display. I was horrified. Who cares if the banana is bruised? It’s still edible. I don’t know what happened to that bruised fruit but I imagine it got thrown away. I believe they have a new policy however, where the food gets donated to food banks. (Whether or not that is true, I don’t know. I tried to find some articles to support this but my search came up blank.)

The box I saw at Walmart was about this length, but shorter height wise. Like a box you use for packing.

According to the USDA, food waste is estimated at anywhere between 30% to 40% of all our food. While that seems like a small number, it is still a problem. They calculated that that’s about 133 billion pounds of food wasted. Now, I’m not good at math but I’m pretty sure that’d fill quite a few football fields. Or rather fill a landfill. How does this effect our society?

Wholesome food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills….Land, water, labor, energy and other inputs are used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food.

-U.S. Department of Agriculture
Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

Think about that for a moment. All of that 133 million pounds of food ends up in a landfill like the one pictured above, and it rots and decomposes. When that food could have been used to feed the 37 million people who go hungry in the US. (See Do Something and Feeding America.)

I’ve worked at two restaurants: Smoke on Cherry Street and McDonald’s. It amazed me how much we threw away after we closed. Food that was made but never used ended up in the trash.

Fall semester I took a class called Film Directors. We watched a movie called The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda. It was an incredible documentary. Agnes followed people in France who gleaned. What is gleaning? Well it’s when after all the farmers picked the fruit or vegetables, they allow people to come in and pick what they’ve either missed, or discarded because it wasn’t sell-able.

The part that got to me was about the potatoes. Tons and tons and tons of potatoes were dumped in this field because they were misshapen, too large, too small. People would come to this field and take home over 50 pounds of potatoes that could feed their families for a long time. Potatoes are incredibly filling, and farmers just dump them in a field because they aren’t pretty enough to be sold.

Heart-shaped potatoes that were dumped in the field

Who cares if it’s pretty? Yes, I get it, we do have the tendency of buying the ‘pretty’ fruit and vegetables. But perhaps selling the ‘ugly’ produce became more of a staple, we’d get over only buying the pretty. It’d probably save a lot money. Next time you go to the store, I want you to not buy only the ‘pretty’ produce.

I want you to think.

How much food do you throw away? Do you keep the leftovers and eat them throughout the week? Do you give them to your dogs as a treat? Do you take them to your neighbor who is 90 years old and can’t walk anymore? Or, do you throw it all away?

Most of the time at home, we pack up the leftovers and we eat it throughout the week. Sometimes, however, we do throw it away or give it to the doggies.

Maybe if we all packed up the leftovers or donated to a neighbor who needs it, hunger wouldn’t be such a problem in the US.

Just some food for thought. (See what I did there?)

If you haven’t seen The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda, I would definitely watch it. It’s fascinating.

-K

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